Article 4(1)(xi) of the Japanese Trademark Law stipulates that trademark is not registrable if it is identical with, or similar to, another entity’s senior registration provided that the applied trademark is used in connection with the same designated goods or designated services related to the senior registration.
In evaluating dissimilarity of goods or services between the applied mark and senior registration, JPO relies on “Examination Guidelines for Similar Goods and Services (EGSGS).”
EGSGS, in compliance with the Nice Classification, categorize goods having commonality in terms of the production sector, the sales sector, raw materials, qualities, etc.; or services having commonality in terms of how they are being offered, the purposes for which they are being offered, the places they are being offered, etc.
It aims to determine which goods or services belong to which group in light of above commonality, and therefore, in principle, goods/services in each group is deemed similar respectively.
Each group is numbered with a five-digit, common, alphanumeric code, which is called “Similar Group Code (SGC)”.
Similar Group Code (SGC)
As an established examination practice, JPO has considered any goods and services assigned to the same SGC to be in principle similar to each other.
[Example of SGC for goods]
– Cl.16 Books (26A01)
– Cl.24 Towels (17B01)
[Example of SGC for services]
– Cl.41 Educational services for art, sports, or knowledge (41A01)
– Cl.44 Medical practices (42V02)
Same code can be numbered even if each goods/services is classified in different class based on the Nice Classification, vice versa.
[Example of same SGC in different class]
– Cl.14 Jewelry case (20A01) similar to Cl.20 Furniture (20A01)
[Example of different SGC in same class]
– Cl.16 Books (26A01) dissimilar to Cl.16 Pencils (25B01)
As trademark practitioner, SGC provides us useful information in assessing registrability of a junior mark and possibility of trademark infringement.
In the meantime, occasionally it becomes an unexpected obstacle in view of less likelihood of confusion in the course of actual trade.
Similar code system is introduced in neighboring Asian countries, such as Korea and China.
If you want to find more information on SGC, please visit at a website of the JPO for your reference.